Hague had many flaws, but he had managed to hold National together - no small feat
“William Hague was the patient man of British politics, rewarded in 2012 at his second attempt to lead the National to victory in a general election. Then, seven years later, he became the first prime minister in modern history to be forced from office by a no-confidence vote. Mr Hague's supporters had seen him as the crisis manager who averted an economic bailout. They see him as an effective leader capable of maintaining the country's unity as the separatist movement hit tense heights. Yet his critics accused him of favouring economic shock therapy, hitting the poorest the hardest. Friend and foe alike agreed that Hague was not the most charismatic of politicians but Mr Hague, in fairness, did not promise fireworks. As Mr Hague departed, he told MPs that it was "an honour to leave a better Britain than I found it"
- William Hague - the patient man of British politics, BBC News Bulletin
There was no obvious successor to William Hague, Jeremy Clarkson and David Davis had been shadow-boxing for the position for months now, but with both of them implicated in the Harrison case their approval ratings went into free-fall. Other leading Cabinet Members had similar faults Nicholas Soames and Michael Clapp were both too old and Jo Swinson was too liberal. Many in the party were calling for a generation shift, to bring in a new candidate from the backbenches, preferably someone who had come to power in a democratic post-Junta world, who could bring the party forward as a normal centre-right European political party.
Several of these “young turks” had played limited or back-room roles in the Junta, many of them had been intelligence or diplomatic officers, spending the messy downfall of the regime abroad. The left-wing press would dub these young up and coming spies as “generation spook”, and unkind comparisons to the rise of Vladimir Putin were made by some. The favoured of this faction of young reformists was Tom Tugendhat, at just 44 he was a rare young man in an overwhelmingly older Parliamentary caucus. Tugendhat had an impeccable Junta pedigree with his father being a military judge and Uncle being a member of the Hill-Norton era Parliament.
Tugendhat had been a protege of First Lord Mike Jackson
More than that Tugendhat had reached the rank of Colonel, and in a party that respected rank above all, that brought him a lot of sway. Tugendhat was a strange mix of policies, he was unashamedly unionist, calling for stronger sanctions against the Scottish exiles, but was also strongly europhilic and socially liberal. In short there was something for everyone across the party spectrum. While Tugendhat had once been a rank outsider, with the party leadership in disarray and the People’s Alliance in ascendance, members were starting to look for a fresh start. As poll after poll showed corruption as voters’ primary issues, Tugendhat’s backers were eager to present him as this much needed head start.
For the party establishment two candidates emerged, Deputy Prime Minister Jeremy Clarkson and Industry Secretary Arlene Foster. Despite being in rather senior roles, both were seen as relative mavericks in the party, Clarkson for his support of animal welfare and a woman’s right to choose, and Foster by virtue of being a senior woman in a patriarchal party. Still both had managed to claw their way to the top as competent media performers, and were now jostling to prove themselves as Hague’s successor. If the contest had been held a few months earlier, it would have been a straight heat between Clarkson and Davis, but the Harrison scandal has destroyed Davis and mortally wounded Clarkson.
“Although Harrison is by far the most high-profile corruption scandal in the UK, it is far from the only case. This points to an unhealthy culture of corruption in the country. As you’d expect, opposition parties, the largest being the UPA have pledged to tackle corruption. But, it is important to note that SDP has its own corruption scandals currently before the courts. All the main political parties have been involved in alleged wrongdoing. There may be signs of a new climate of accountability, but. This week a UPA MP resigned as media reports revealed that he had withheld taxes. Politicians linked to previous scandals have been far more stubborn. At this critical juncture, Transparency International urges all parties to join forces against impunity.”
- What’s Next for the UK’s Struggle with Political Corruption, Transparency International (2019)
Clarkson had found himself as the unlikely establishment candidate
Clarkson had also angered party grassroots through his role as acting Scottish President during the constitutional crisis. Clarkson had been relatively lenient on the separatists, at least compared to Hague and other Cabinet colleague, he had been open to negotiations with Harvie and had refused calls to send more troops over the border, much to the anger of those in National who would rather nuke Glasgow then allow Scotland to leave the union. Many party bigwigs had never fully trusted Clarkson, a civilian journalist commanding colonels and majors was something the hardliners were unlikely to come to terms with. Clarkson had one trump card and that was his relative popularity, with an approval rating of only minus 23, a good result considering all that had happened.
Foster on the other hand tried to tread the line between party establishment and the conservative faction. Whilst she had never been an officer she had been a strong supporter of the military’s role in British politics. Foster was also the most eurosceptic of the leading candidates, having been against Britain joining the euro. Finally Foster was by far the most experienced of the candidates, having been an MP since the days of Hill-Norton. Fosters’ aides hoped if she could lock down the establishment and conservative blocs of the party, whilst Tugendhat took the liberals, she could squeeze Clarkson out of the race entirely, using Clarkson’s second preferences to squash Tugendhat.
Whilst these three would dominate the race, three minor candidates would also have a crack at the top job, annoyingly for Foster they all came from the right of the party. These three candidates were Penny Morduant, Ben Wallace and Nadhim Zahawi. Wallace ran as the candidate for those who thought Foster was too moderate, a leader for the “nuke Glasgow” brigade. Morduant and Zahawi seemed to be running for a laugh with both holding a series of seemingly random and contradictory policies. Still with four candidates from the right, one from the left and one from the centre, things were looking difficult for Foster.
“Patriotic, monarchist and liberal, Tom Tugendhat has reversed his role as a nobody to a likely candidate for victory. The Harrison affair has benefited him, but the duel at the top of the National Party has also helped. As Jeremy Clarkson and Arlene Foster duel it out, they free the path of the third man. The election has shown his skills as a communicator and he consolidated his pitch for novelty. He could not be blamed for cases of corruption, nor could he be identified with the generation of opulence, impunity and dictatorship - as long as you don't mention Tudgendhat’s Junta lineage. Mike Jackson is Tugendhat's godfather and his father Judge Michael Tugendhat presided over the prosecution of some of the Junta's most notable political prisoners.”
- Tom Tugendhat, the puppy has fangs, Mattha Busby, The Guardian (2019)
Tugendhat had to reconcile his change message with his Mountbattenite heritage